It's been said only the good die young. March 5 marks China's national Remembrance Day of Lei Feng, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier, who died when he was only 21. Many who knew Chinese philanthropist Lei speak highly of his good deeds and willingness to help others.
Sun Guiqin, 66 years old, used to study at a primary school in Fushun. Today, the school is named after Lei. Sun said Lei was her after-school tutor and a close friend of all the students. She remembers that he had impacted everyone with his energy, virtue and philanthropic efforts.
Lei Feng (R) and Qiao Anshan in the car. /Lei Feng Memorial Hall Photo
"I came from a poor miners' family. It was him who taught me to save diligently and sew my torn socks hand by hand," said Sun.
Lei Feng's comrade-in-arms Qiao Anshan said the orphaned young man treated him as his blood brother, teaching him basic literacy, techniques, and using his money to help his sick mother.
Qiao said once he and Lei were struggling to drive their cars up a steep hill. Suddenly, Lei noticed some villagers having difficulties moving their cargo and stopped by to help them bring their stuff down the hill.
"That was him. He helped anyone he saw that was in need," Qiao concluded.
In the days since Lei's untimely passing, Qiao told his story to many, which was even made into a popular movie named "The Days Without Lei Feng," and the beneficiaries of the folk hero was dedicated to passing on his spirit which evolves over time, including being helpful, kind-hearted and thoughtful.
As people commemorate Lei across China, many believe his spirit still matters today, to counter money-worship, apathy and lack of trust.
Taking care of the elderly is a good tradition inspired by Lei Feng. /CGTN Photo
In China's northeastern city of Fushun, where Lei spent the last years of his life, his spirit still lives on. Pan Baojun's volunteer team, named after Lei, has been providing pedicures and haircuts for the disadvantaged for years. For them, paying tribute to Lei is not shown through commemorative events that take place once a year. Instead, his voluntary spirit has become an essential part of their daily routine.
Pan Baojun believed that with far better living standards, people should be more able to help people in need, just like what Lei Feng did. For many like these voluntary workers, collective interests are not their only pursuit when they learn from him. They also get to put a smile on each other's faces.